Guy Fawkes was born in April, 1570 in York. Though his parents were Protestants, his grandparents were recusant Catholics. His father died when he was 8, and his mother remarried to a Catholic. These religious influences had a large part to play in his further years.
In October 1591, Fawkes sold the property he had inherited from his father and travelled across the land to fight in the Eighty Years War for Catholic Spain against the Dutch Republic. In 1603, he travelled to Spain to ask for support for a Catholic rebellion that would dethrone King James, whom he described as a 'heretic'. He was received politely, but was offered no support.
It was during his military career that he became acquainted with Thomas Wintour. Wintour proposed that Fawkes join him and a group of English Catholics, led by Robert Catesby. Catesby had gained notoriety in England for speaking openly against the king. He was also a man of military expertise and had been rejected by the Spanish too. Catesby had a plan that involved the assassination of the Protestant King James II by blowing up the Parliament House with gunpowder, which would then lead to the succession of his daughter, Elizabeth.
On 26th October, 1605, Lord Monteagle received an anonymous letter warning him to stay away from the Parliament House reopening on the 5th of November. Though the conspirators learnt of the leak in their plans, they planned to go ahead since they thought the letter had been dismissed as a 'hoax'. However, Monteagle had had his suspicions aroused and hared them with the King who ordered a search of the cellars beneath Parliament House.
Fawkes, who had stationed himself with 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellar, was arrested in the early hours of 5th November.
Fawkes gave his name as John Johnson and was subjected to slowly increasing degrees of torture in the Tower of London till he gave up the plot, his identity and the identity of his co-conspirators. The room in which he was interrogated in, is now called the Guy Fawkes Room. Fawkes refused to bend to the interrogation, which even impressed King James. However, he broke on the 7th of November and confessed all.
Fawkes' trial took place on the 31st of January, 1606. He was declared 'guilty of high treason' by the Pope, though he still pleaded 'not guilty'. The punishment, as of those times was to be 'drawn, hanged and quartered'. Fawkes' jumped from the scaffolding and escaped the mutilation by breaking his neck.
Though Fawkes was not the leader of the conspiracy, he is the one is most widely associated with it since he was the one caught red handed. Since 1605, when the inhabitants of London were encouraged to celebrate the King's near escape from assassination, the 5th of November continues to be celebrated across Britain annually. It is known as Guy Fawkes Night, and is observed by lighting fireworks and bonfires.